I wrote last week that the first test against England would be a very good but demanding opportunity for the young Argentinian side…and so it was! England played, especially in the first 40 minutes, a high level of rugby, with both speed and precision. They won the gain line every time they wanted and took advantage of every mistake to turn it into points.
It´s not fair to analyze every part of Los Pumas performance, when they lacked the foundations off which any team should be built – set piece and defence.
Much had been said during the week about playing more with the ball in hand and having variations in attack. But without nailing the ABC of the game, we can´t even start to talk about it. Some stats? From the lineout point of view, nine of our own throws were lost and the ones we did win were poor quality ball. In the scrummage, we were pushed back several times, conceding penalties and 13 points against on the scoreboard. Defence was very poor, missing an incredible 35 tackles. The ones we did pull off were always on the back-foot, making everything easier for the clinical English team.
The big challenge for the Argentinian side is to incorporate their well known strengths (scrum, maul, forward play and a solid defence), with a faster multiphase game and to do it with variation and precision. But the idea must be to add to what we already have and not to replace, because without the first, the rest can´t be achieved. This Argentinian side, with a lot of newcomers, little experience and only one week of preparation, wanted to run before they could walk. They got hit by the reality of international rugby. Test match rugby is cruel and unforgiving. Every time you make a mistake, you will pay for it, as happened this weekend in Salta.
I believe Argentina´s focus on the rematch this Saturday must be to do the basics right: quality set piece ball, territory and a pace of play that they can comfortably control. And we must turn our defence into a weapon again, a means not only to stop the opposition but to turno ver possession.
As we discussed last week, there will be variations on the starting team. I can see Nicolas Vergallo, the Southern Kings player, with the number 9 jersey, and Tomas Cubelli waiting his opportunity on the bench, with Martin Landajo on the stands. We´ll also probably see Felipe Contepomi playing with the number 10 jersey. We´ll anxiously be waiting for a positive response from the Argentinian players who are taking their first steps. In this situation, in adversity, is when the “different” players put up their hand.